At no point in my life have I ever looked upon yard work with the same soft-focused, warm fuzzies that seem to inhabit many of my neighbors. They talk of string trimmers the same way I might describe a muscle car. For my part, I just want the least amount of hassle with the easiest care possible. Black & Decker sent me something that actually fits that bill in the 36v string trimmer. It cuts with the same grunt as a gas trimmer but without all the pulls, fuel mixing, and sore shoulders.
Before you assail me with righteous indignation, let me explain. No, the 36v LST136 is not as powerful as many of the gas-powered trimmers on the shelf today. Nor will it last as long at full tilt as a gas trimmer; this is true. What it can do as well and with the same or less hassle is trim the house and fence line and make sure the “project car” in the grass is all tidied up — on one charge and without help. We tested it on the highest setting and foot-tall grass, weeds, and all manner of roughage that had been growing for close to a month and it chopped it all fine.
On paper, the LST136 doesn’t miss much. There’s a 13-inch cut diameter that uses .065 diameter line and the battery features an LED counter with four indicator lights that represent 20 percent per light. This means that even when no light is visible there’s still a 20 percent charge left. When the 36v Li-ion battery is completely drained there’s only an hour of charge time to get it topped off. The curb weight winds up running close to 7 lbs. flat, which is a welcome statistic if you’ve ever lugged a heavier model around for any length of time.
Black & Decker says that on a fully charged battery, the unit should provide 25 mins. run time on regular speed or 8-10 mins. on the higher speed. There’s a also a chart on top of the handle that tells you basically the same thing: the higher the setting you run, the shorter the battery life will be. For our testing we were on setting “3” for around the house and “6” for the high weeds and grass. It lasted the entire way around the house and tackled the toughest weeds without missing a beat.
The trimmer obviously has all the assorted bells and whistles normally associated with electric string trimmers, such as a push button swivelhead and brace that turn the trimmer into edging mode. There’s also a telescoping feature built into the length of the pole that adjusts to any reasonably-sized user and helps in storage. The LST136 also isn’t a bump feed unit; it’s auto-feed. In fact, if you go around bumping it on the ground for more line, all you’ll end up doing is rat’s-nesting the feed spool.
We were just sure the LST136 was going to choke on tall grass and overgrowth, but it didn’t. We were positive that, like most of the battery-operated string trimmers out there, we’d run out of charge after about four feet of heavy work, but it plowed on. After the entire task even Toolmonger’s resident curmudgeon (my old man… who doesn’t like anything) said with grudging respect that the LST136 performed as well in basic yard applications (normal trimming and edging) as his Ryobi gas-powered unit.
As much as I hate yard work, this does the job around the homestead and makes short work of weeds if you move quickly and don’t linger on one spot and waste battery life. Is it worth $170 price tag? In some instances, like its intended suburban application, we’d say yes, completely worth it. If you’ve got a ranch to do or are a pro landscaper, no. Then again, if you’re already bought into the 36v Black & Decker system it’s a no-brainer. In any event, invest wisely and wait until your current rig packs up.